We’ve been told from the time we could understand the spoken word that “hard work pays off” (or some variation on the theme). And while I’m not about to question the veracity of the statement—who am I to argue with such a truism—there are times when I begin to wonder if routinely burning the candle at both ends really gets you that much further ahead.

Experience teaches that hard work without rest and replenishment is a fast track to getting burned out and bummed out. And nobody likes hanging around a sad monkey.


Those who know me know that when it comes to getting things done, I tend to be all in. It’s what I’ve come to expect of myself, my team, and my associates. I also play hard. It’s the only way I know how to be.

If there’s a job or a task that needs doing—whether it’s a DIY project at home, a client deadline at work, or a bit of friendly competition on the volleyball court—I’m there ready, willing, and able to give my 110%.

But as I’ve gotten older and with the benefit of experience and hindsight, I’ve begun to realize that hard work leading to success is not as automatic or as “black and white” as it’s been made out to be. There’s more to success than just good old elbow grease. There are nuances . . . there are gray areas.


Heather Bresch, American businesswoman and one of Fortune Magazine’s most powerful women, famously said, “There is simply no substitute for hard work when it comes to achieving success.” I agree with her statement . . . for the most part. But hard work, alone, isn’t enough.

Recently-retired MLB player Alex Rodgriguez once said, “Enjoy your sweat because hard work doesn’t guarantee success, but without it you don’t have a chance.” His sentiment is closer to where my thinking is these days. Hard work, while it’s vital for our ability to achieve success, isn’t enough all by its lonesome. We need something else. But what?

Luck? Good fortune?


I’m not a big believer in luck leading to success. Luck is just happenstance. It’s nothing you can count on or predict. It’s just a confluence of events, and sometimes that “flow” leads to good things and sometimes to bad things.

In my mind, one of the key ingredients for success, in addition to hard work, is TALENT. In other words, do you have the chops to get done what needs to be done?

The NFL’s Robert Griffin III once said, “Hard work pays off—hard work beats talent any day, but if you’re talented and work hard, it’s hard to be beat.”

To illustrate, you could work hard and practice all day to play the piano or the violin, but if you’re tone deaf—if you don’t have the innate talent—all the hard work in the world is not going to make you a musical virtuoso. But you combine hard work and talent—and now you’re cooking with gas!

So is hard work and talent enough? Therein lies the conundrum.


On the surface it seems hard work and talent should be enough, but what if we focus all that hard work and talent in a way that just doesn’t make sense or doesn’t support the goals we are trying to achieve? Shouldn’t we be applying all our hard work and talent in a way that’s SMART?

Hard work with talent, but without strategy, is just a lot of busy work. To be successful, we need to WORK HARD and we need to WORK SMART while utilizing our TALENTS along the way.

It’s a recipe for success that works well in business, athletics, and even in relationships.

What say you? Add your thoughts to the Monkeyz chatter.

Paul June is King Monkey of BARREL O’MONKEYZ, a San Diego-based strategic marketing agency specializing in Sports and Active Lifestyle markets. We serve as a seasoned, outsourced marketing team for companies looking to ramp up sales and launch new products. Our barrel is full of talent and creative arms ready to prove we don’t just monkey around!